The Metropolitan Opera kicks off its seventh season of cinema presentations captured live in high definition with their new production of Donizetti’s classic comedy L’Elisir d’Amore (The Elixir of Love). The opera opened the current Met season a few weeks ago, and is the first of a whopping 12 presentations to be screened in cinemas around the world this season.
With gorgeous sets and costumes, incredible stars, a simple story and highly melodious music, it would be hard to think of a more accessible opera for first time audiences thinking of dipping a toe in the opera waters. The chance to see and hear such a thrilling performance without forking the big bucks for a Met ticket, let alone paying for a plane fare, is too good to pass up.
Lincoln Centre Resident Director Bartlett Sher directs his fourth Met opera with L’Elisir, working again with his superb artistic collaborators: costume designer Catherine Zuber and set designer Michael Yeargan. The team are currently represented on stage in Australia with their stunning, highly acclaimed production of South Pacific. The concept here is a , two dimensional look, housed in a false proscenium that clearly evokes the Italy, 1830s setting. Zuber’s signature touch here is a jaunty top hat for the leading lady.
Anna Netrebko is the world’s most popular and acclaimed opera diva of current times. Her presence guarantees an air of glamour and passion in any production, with her appearance in last season’s Manon being a classic example of this. Fans of La Bellissima have seen her blossom from the stunning soprano who electrified the world singing Violetta in a red cocktail dress in 2005 Salzburg Festival’s La Traviata to a working mother, now more voluptuously beautiful than ever.
Having also kicked off the 2011 season with a marathon effort in Anna Bolena, Netrebko has a far easier time of it in L’Elisir, portraying simple farm owner and village sweetheart Adina. Tenor Matthew Polenzani, seen in last season’s screening of La Traviata, plays the lovelorn Nemorino who pins his hopes on the elixir of love. The cavernous barn for the pre-wedding feast of act two slowly shifts off stage to create a lush outdoor setting for the classic aria “Una Furtiva Lagrima (A Furtive Tear).” Polenzani sings it as a heartfelt prayer, as if Nemorino can hardly bear to put his thoughts into words. The live audience roared its approval in an extended ovation.
Netrebko follows this up beautifully with an equally gentle and heartfelt rendition of “Prendi, per me sei libero (Take it, I have freed you).” Such was the intimacy achieved by Netrebko and Polenzani, the close ups made it feel as if we were intruding on a private moment. Director Sher’s focus on character and story have saved the opera from cartoonish buffoonery and heightened the effectiveness of the charming love story.
Polish barihunk Marius Kwiecen gives a carefully measured performance as the self-confident sergeant Belcore. Kwiecen and Netrebko duet superbly in “Quanto Amore (How much love).” Their pairing in next season’s Eugene Onegin is highly anticipated.
Ambrogio Maestri is literally larger than life as travelling quack Doctor Dulcamara. Further duet pleasure comes from Netrebko and Maestri’s playful “Barcarolle for Two Voices: Io son ricco e tu sei bella (I’m rich, and you are beautiful).
Deborah Voigt hosts this presentation, featuring interviews with Netrebko, Polenzani, Kwiecen, and Met general manager Peter Gelb as well as a chat a with the guy who prepares the food to be eaten on stage (roast chickens come from legendary upper west side supermarket Fairway!).
L’Elisir d’Amore screens this weekend in cinemas around Australia, with further session times next week. Further information is available at the Australian Met Live in HD site.
Photos: Ken Howard
This review published on Theatre People 2 November 2012.